Like most outdoor activities, good foraging starts with good planning. Sure, some foraging can be done with bare hands and decent pockets, but if you’re hoping to bring home a meals worth of mushrooms, you’ll probably need a few more tools. When you’re heading out in search of wild mushrooms, here’s a few ideas of what to bring…
Undeniably the most important part of any outdoor excursion is your plan. Where are you going? When are you coming back? What types of mushroom do you expect to find and which are you keeping? What wildlife should you be aware of? What is expected of the weather today? I like to put my plans into my nature journal that accompanies me on all my forest trips. It has drawings of things I’ve found before, compiled safety tips and a general outline for each outing with information like location, weather and goals. You don’t need to go as far as to keep a journal, but at least make sure you know generally what to expect and someone knows when you plan on returning.
Basket or Mesh Laundry Bag
Fungi hold a lot of water, so if you throw them in a solid plastic bag you could end up with a sad, soggy mess. No matter which mushrooms end up going home with you you’ll be dealing with moisture. A breathable mesh bag or basket helps that moisture escape so your mushrooms stay fresh and beautiful for when you need them.
Some mushrooms are difficult or even impossible to identify in the wild. If you have a questionable mushroom that you’re bringing home to spore print, it’s best that it be kept in a breathable paper bag separate from the rest. You’d hate to get home with a variety of mushrooms only to find that one poisonous pick has spoiled the whole batch.
A mushroom knife is usually have a small, sharp, curved blade. Often these knives have a brush attached for gently removing spores, dirt and other debris from your mushrooms. There are a couple reasons why I would recommend getting a mushroom knife instead of just pulling them out of the ground. The most important for me is regeneration. A quick cut leaving the base of the mushroom in the ground gives that area the best chance of regrowing mushrooms later. Being mindful of regeneration can possibly turn a one time haul into a reliable hunting spot. Secondly, mushrooms are fragile. Pulling them can cause crushs or rips and make them less presentable on the dinner table later.
Many mushroom knives come with a brush, but if yours doesn’t, I’d make sure to bring one along. Brushes allow you to gently remove dirt, debris and insects from your finds without damaging them.
This is a bit of a weird one. I usually bring rope when I’m looking for lions mane or any other variety that grows high up. Attaching the end of a rope to a stick or stone allows you to throw the line over the mushroom and pull it down. Rope is also an excellent survival tool and is a great idea if you’re going off path.
General Outdoor Gear
Water, sunblock, bug spray, good shoes and an emergency communication device should be a no brainer for those used to spending time in the woods. In case you’re new, I’ll let you know that anytime you’re in the forest you should be prepared. A state park is one thing, but if you’re going deeper into the woods or off trail, then you should absolutely be ready for the worst, just in case. Plenty of people have gone out for a leisurely forest walk and found themselves stuck overnight.
There are plenty of other items you may want to bring along when you go foraging. Build a kit that works best for you and revisit your packing list occasionally to make adjustments as you learn and grow. Happy foraging!